Wednesday 30 April 2014

Wael Zuaiter: Unknown, April 30, 2014 ****

By Jesse Cox. Creative Nonfiction
Theatre Works, until May 11, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun onlin on Thurs May 1, 2014 and later in print. KH
Jesse Cox, pic Sarah Walker

During Wael Zuaiter: Unknown, Jesse Cox tells a poignant love story about his great-aunt while simultaneously, and almost by stealth, informing the audience about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Seated alone at a desk on stage, Cox speaks gently, intimately but directly as he weaves a complex narrative about his great-aunt, Janet Venn-Brown’s relationship with her fiance, Wael Zuaiter, a Palestinian intellectual and translator who was murdered in Rome in October 1972.

Amongst episodes of the burgeoning love story between Wael and Janet, Cox threads the mythical, romantic tale of Sheherezade and The 1001 Nights.

The compelling beauty of Cox’s narrative is elevated by remarkable projections that shift from Aldous Massie’s vividly colourful paintings of Sheherezade to Matt Huynh’s grim, painterly, black-and-white images that depict Wael’s life.

Saturday 26 April 2014

The Rocky Horror Show, April 26, 2014 ****

Music, lyrics & book by Richard O’Brien
Produced by Ambassador Theatre Group and Gordon Frost Organisation
Comedy Theatre from April 26 to July 13, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
A version of this review was also be in print in Herald Sun on Sunday 27 April and online on Sat April 26 at 10pm. KH
 Christie Whelan Browne, Tim Maddren, Craig McLachlan (photo Jeff Busby) 

Craig McLachlan is “just a sweet transvestite” and he’s strutting his demented stuff on stage at the Comedy Theatre to the wicked delight of The Rocky Horror Show opening night crowd.

The audience glitterati included movie megastar, Pierce Brosnan, who is in town with his new film, The Moon and The Sun.

An audacious McLachlan, garbed in corset, fishnets and stilettos, reprises the role of Dr. Frank N Furter, the twisted “tranny” whose gothic mansion and perverted pastimes created a sensation in London in 1973 then in Australia in 1974.

McLachlan is deliciously, flamboyantly camp as Frank, playing an unforgettable, swaggering, muscular, drag queen with oddly seductive sexual peccadilloes.

He teases the audience with his outrageous, mock depravity, risqué sexual innuendo and comic ad libbing as he leads a daring cast of Frank’s dissolute pals through a series of decadent parties and wanton excesses.

When he created the show in the 1970s, Richard O’Brien, the sole writer of the music, lyrics and book, tossed a trashy drag show into a particle collider with classic 1950s, B Grade sci-fi and horror movies to produce this idiosyncratic and trangressive rock musical.

Christie Whelan Browne embodies the sweetly innocent Janet then fearlessly takes her character on a rollercoaster ride into debauchery, while Tim Maddren as Janet’s clean-cut, naive fiancé, Brad, tumbles headlong under the corrupting influence of Frank N Furter.

Saturday 19 April 2014

The Rocky Horror Show, opens Melbourne, April 26, 2014

Music, lyrics & book by Richard O’Brien
Produced by Ambassador Theatre Group & Gordon Frost Organisation
Comedy Theatre from April 26 to June 22, 2014

I will review the Melbourne opening night on Saturday April 26, 2014. KH


Thursday 17 April 2014

Upfront, Melbourne Comedy Festival, 16 April 2014 ***

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Melbourne Town Hall, April 16, 2014 only
Stars: ***1/2
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Full review also in Herald Sun online, Thurs April 17, 2014. KH

 A mixed bag of gags and giggles from 20 gals
Geraldine Quinn, host of Upfront

Get your laughing gear on – ‘cos Upfront showcases some top female, comic talent from the 2014 Comedy Festival. 

At the top of the show and again after interval, host Geraldine Quinn, belts out a hot, rock tune with her band, Spandex Ballet, then provides swift introductions to each act.

Although the quality is uneven amongst the 20 acts and the second half runs way to long for comfort, there are many highlights.

Celia Pacquola rants about hoarders in a tight, funny five minutes, Felicity Ward takes a comedy hatchet to Aussie bigotry, and Rebecca Di Unamuno wows the audience with her totally improvised Shakespeare scene.

Smart, cool Sara Pascoe charms with her bent logic and material about women’s bodies, then the first half closes with Adrienne Truscott’s off-the-wall, burlesque routine that makes cake-baking look dangerous.

Friday 11 April 2014

DreamSong, April 10, 2014 **1/2

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Music by Robert Tripolino, Book & Lyrics by Hugo Chiarella
Red Heifer Productions 
Theatre Works, until 20 April 2014 
Star rating: **1/2 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Friday April 11, 2014. KH
  Jesus is back! And this time he’s wearing thongs! 
In DreamSong, a corrupt pastor (Ben Prendergast) fabricates the second coming of the Messiah to save his church from insolvency.

It sounds like a great, satirical idea, but the potential is not yet realised in this patchy, new Australian musical created by Robert Tripolino and Hugo Chiarella.

Despite being subjected to a series of creative developments, productions and rewrites, the problems with the narrative, music, lyrics and dialogue remain unresolved and DreamSong is still not a finished, ready-for-stage musical.

The highlight of the performance is Brent Hill as The Real Jesus, whose skillful comic timing and delivery saves a number of scenes.

There is only one compelling song, Just Have Faith, that hints at the musical possibilities of this team, with its memorable tune and simple lyrics sung by Connor Crawford’s clear, tuneful musical theatre voice.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Sara Pascoe VS The Truth, April 9, 2014 ****

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Melbourne Town Hall until April 20, 2014 
Star rating:****
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Full review also online in Herald Sun. KH

Nietzschian Nihilism wrapped in a charmingly kooky package

UK comic Sara Pascoe is relaxed, charming and unassuming while she totally upends our belief in reality with her hilariously twisted philosophy.

She is casually dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that declares, “There are no facts, only interpretations,” a quote from Nihilist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, that provides the bizarre basis of all that follows.

Pascoe doesn’t do self-deprecating comedy but, instead, uses her weird, convoluted logic to sneak up on us with unexpected twists and tag lines.

Despite her easygoing, laconic and kooky style, Pascoe’s material is thought provoking as she tells serious stories about personal or social issues – feminism, burkas, elder-abuse, feeling unloved, phobias, pornography – then flips them with an unexpected gag.

Her fears are manifold and wide-ranging and she gets plenty of comic mileage from her spider phobia and her paranoia that she is being watched.

Friday 4 April 2014

Barbie™ Live! The Musical, April 5, 2014 ***

Australian Premiere, Melbourne season
Produced by EMS Entertainment & Mattel Live Entertainment 
Palais Theatre April 5, 6, 7, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 5 
Full review also in Herald Sun online on April 8. KH

All photos by Joe Calleri taken at Media Call on April 4, 2014. KH

Barbie™ Live! The Musical has a captive audience of tiny girls wearing pink, fluffy tutus and wielding twinkly, twirly toys while waiting excitedly for Barbie to appear.

In a story by Diane Rodriguez with songs by Robbie Roth, Barbie (Chelsea Bernier), now a movie star, is rehearsing a Hollywood musical with a cast that includes her under-confident, best friend, Teresa (Kristina Miller). 

Barbie™ Live! is as sweetly pink as fairy floss and littered with life lessons based on stories from Barbie’s own movies that she retells to encourage Teresa to be brave, strong and happy to be herself.

Teresa is tormented not only by her lack of confidence, but also by nasty, competitive Raquelle (Courtney Cheatham) and her wacky sidekick, the make-up gal, Peg Pincushion (Rebecca Warm).

The cheery lyrics and perky, pop tunes (Rise Above It All, Get Your Sparkle On, Be A Friend) are accompanied by energetic, albeit unoriginal choreography (Kobi Rozenfeld), while the movie rehearsals resemble pop videos that are familiar to most children.

The second half avoids the crowded stage and busy choreography of the first, hitting the right note for the audience of mostly 3 to 7 year-old girls by focussing on intimate scenes between Barbie and Teresa playing their characters, Princess Victoria and Keira the pop star.

Rebecca de Unamuno, April 3, 2014 ***

Kiss My Date 
The Evatt Room, Trades Hall, until April 20, 2014
Star rating:***
Reviewer: Kate Herbert  
Full review also online in Herald Sun, Friday April 4, 2014. KH

Proof that online dating is a minefield of maniacs

If you are not convinced that online dating is simply a minefield of maniacs, ask Rebecca de Unamuno. 

Her entire show is build around her disheartening, real experiences with men she encountered in an online dating site, some of whom she met in person with varied, but always discouraging results.

The show, cheekily called Kiss My Date, straddles the fence between stand-up comedy and theatrical monologue with mixed success.

The early vignettes are less effective than later scenes when we hear hilarious examples of hapless men’s messages to Rebecca that range from idiotic, insipid and sad to just plain offensive.

The high point was her improvised scene in the style of Shakespeare; she asked a young couple in questions about their relationship and then improvised their story in an hilarious parody of Elizabethan language.

She talks about her teenage crushes and a recent dispiriting affair with a plumber, then enacts an entire drunken pick-up in a bar in some clever mime.

The 22 year-old, “Gen Porn” guy has all the elements of a great character for Rebecca to play, but she portrays him only by miming Lonely Is A Man Without Love, a song from absolutely the wrong generation.

This show needs a clearer through-line and more consistent style and Rebecca’s performance is much more compelling when she is less theatrical and interacts intimately with the audience.

Rebecca’s experiences with men may be demoralising, but she has talent.

By Kate Herbert

KelFi & FiKel, April 3, 2014 ***

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
The Front Room, Trades Hall, until April 6, 2014 
Star rating:***
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Full review also online in Herald Sun, Friday April 4, 2014. KH 
 Great harmonies, irreverent lyrics and quirky characters

Fikel and KelFi are two talented singers who perform transgressive, original songs and sketches about doing everything that is ‘perfectly wrong’. 

Kelly, the sassy blonde, and Fiona, the bold brunette, open with a song about how well they go together and their tuneful, musical theatre style voices certainly blend beautifully.

The Wrong Song explains their comic choices when they sing; “We take something really right and make it really wrong.”

Their idiosyncratic tunes, accompanied on piano by Kelly, have complex, irreverent lyrics and their material is often very funny although some of it may be considered to be in questionable taste.

For example, they perform a satirical song about words that can’t be said (or written) in polite company – but the pair find cunning ways to say these taboo words over and over and over.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Sarah Kendall in Touchdown, April 1, 2013 ***

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Old Met Shop, Melbourne Town Hall, until April 20, 2014 
Star rating:***
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also in Herald Sun online. KH
Sassy Sarah’s tale of teenage angst  

Sassy redhead, Sarah Kendall, forces us to relive our school days through her teen memoir about adolescent angst and winning and losing friends.

Looking like a teen in her jeans and boyish checked shirt, she energetically describes her experiences as the incompetent player in the girls’ touch football team in her Newcastle school in 1992.

Kendall comically and vividly portrays herself as a 15 year-old loser extraordinaire: absurdly tall, ginger afro, braces on her teeth, nervous sweats and unfashionable, untannable skin.

These days, Kendall is youthful, casual, engaging and, with her English rose skin and golden hair, she would be perfectly cast wearing a Victorian gown in a British period piece.

She devoted the entire hour to the evolving tale of her friendship with Abbie, the prettiest girl at school, and with Derek, the sweet, Canadian exchange student who has no facility for history because he can’t remember famous names.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Michael Workman in War, April 1, 2014 ****

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 
Regent Room, Melbourne Town Hall until April 20, 2014 
Star rating:****
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Review also online at Herald Sun.KH
Michael Workman is both a whimsical comedian and an extraordinary storyteller whose metaphysical musings and metaphorical storytelling cannot be pigeonholed.

He weaves smart and very funny gags amidst a fantastical tale of a painfully thin, morphine-addled news correspondent who travels to a war zone to report on a bomb that will start people dreaming again.

Workman stands comfortably alone on stage with only imaginary props, design and music to accompany him; even the Scotch he sips is mimed and his invisible stool gets its own laughs.

His show defies genre and, he says, “Is a complex metaphor for the genesis and extinction of self-awareness.”

Workman makes the audience roar laughing at ordinary things viewed through a distorted lens, then draws us in to his bizarre story with his compelling presence, idiosyncratic style, vivid characterisation and atmospheric conjuring of location.

Felicity Ward in The Iceberg, April 1, 2014 ***

Melbourne International Comedy Festival  
The Cube - ACMI, Melbourne Town Hall until April  20, 2014 
Star rating: ***

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Review also online at Herald Sun soon. KH

In her new show, The Iceberg, Felicity Ward is all worked up about what people hide below the surface.

After a year in London, Ward returns with her rapid-fire delivery, some smart, political material mixed with goofy, every-day observations – and a weird pair of flared, orange shorts.

“How we present ourselves is how we are perceived”, she says, and she proceeds to reveal her own secret foibles and how we can shift people’s opinions of us.

Ward has some funny commentary on cricket, including the Aussie fans’ miserable quota of sporting songs compared to the UK Barmy Army that composes such gems as, “You all come from a convict colony”, sung to Yellow Submarine.

She recommends we write new sporting anthems to slap it back at the Poms, remembers fondly the streakers of the 1980s, and celebrates the creativity of the Aussie cricket fans with their watermelon hats.

Hannah Gadsby in The Exhibitionist, April 1, 2014 ***

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Supper Room, Melbourne Town Hall, until April  20, 2014 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Review also online at Herald Sun. KH 
In her new show, The Exhibitionist, Hannah Gadsby indulges her love of “selfies” and links it with her other love – Renaissance portraiture.

Accompanied only by a remote control, Gadbsy clicks through dozens of photos of herself, taken by Gadsby, her friends or strangers in a show that would be the ultimate display of self-absorption if not for her constant self-deprecation.

The selfie, she quips, is the epitome of vanity and loneliness, and Gadsby’s collection of other people’s images of themselves demonstrates this vividly.

People take selfies in wildly inappropriate locations, such as the blokes who showed off his muscles with a grubby urinal in the background or the woman who forgot to tidy her bedroom first.

Gadsby’s patter is fast, rambling and amusing, albeit not always laugh-out-loud funny, and she has now left behind the deadpan style of her early shows.